Autoblog.it have a tribute to the Fiat 128 celebrating it's launch, forty years ago, in May 1969:
Nel lontano maggio del 1969 debuttò la Fiat 128, la prima vettura a trazione anteriore sviluppata dalla Casa torinese...
This outwardly mundane 3 box saloon was not the first front wheel drive car, by a long way, but was the first to combine all the attributes of a modern FWD car. Before you mention the Mini, I refer you to this L J K Setright tribute to the Fiat 128. I found it several years ago, while writing an obituary, and he details the innovation and excellence of the 128 as only Setright can;
Giacosa saw a need to replace Flat's classic 1100, and decided that it should have front-wheel drive. Under him were three brilliant engineers: Montabone was good at everything, Cordiano likewise, but particularly good at suspension, while Lampredi was the greatest engine-designer of his times. The result promised to be extraordinary....
I owned a '79 128 Special, 1300 four door sedan, and did many happy kilometres in it. When I got mine, secondhand, it was a rather faded orange but I had it re-sprayed to it's original Tangerine glory. It might have been a fairly staid design but in that colour it certainly stood out!
By then the 128 was showing it's age in terms of design and interior styling, both little changed since launch, but the driving experience shamed many more modern cars. The modest tyres and power meant it was not fast in outright terms but wonderful steering, handling and the unbustable engine that revved willingly to the red line (I fitted a rev counter) made it quick. The 128 also donated it's mechanicals to one of my favourite '70's Fiats, the outstanding little X1/9.
There is another 128 connection in my life. A couple of years ago I got in touch with a former Primary School Teacher. A special science project - based on paper aircraft - he let me do as a ten year old was the inspiration for a rather odd, but successful, competition submission. It won me a trip to a conference in Las Vegas. He noticed from my blog that I like Fiats but was surprised, 30 years later, I still remembered his car at the time was, of course, a Fiat 128.
Sadly, like many 70's Fiats, it was ultimately corrosion that ended my 128 ownership. The mechanicals were fine but the tin worm eventually won. It's hard to lay the blame entirely with the Italians as Kiwi Fiats were assembled locally with minimal protection. That was not just a Fiat thing as many locally assembled rusty 70's Toyota, Nissan, Mazda proved. Although the Uno proved to be a worthy successor I was sad to lose the mighty 128.